A Conceptual Understanding of the Nature of the 9th of Av, When It Falls Out on Shabbat
Guest post by R. Michael J. Broyde
Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University, was the founding rabbi of the Young Israel in Atlanta and is a dayan in the Beth Din of America.
There have been many guidebooks published on the internet and elsewhere concerning what to do when the 9th of Av falls out on Shabbat, but as I have read them, I sense that they all fail to explain the basic conceptual starting point – which is a significant dispute about the nature of the day – but rather, they simply note rules and that many matters are in dispute.
An initial two pieces of data are needed, but well known: When Yom Kippur falls out on Shabbat, Yom Kippur is observed on Shabbat and the mitzvot of Shabbat are pushed aside to the extent that they are incompatible with Yom Kippur. On the other hand, when all other fast days fall out on Shabbat, they are either delayed a day and not observed at all on Shabbat, or they are moved backwards (as in the case of Taanit Esther) and still not observed at all on Shabbat. While Tisha Be’Av is deferred, in fact the situation is much more complex, and as we will see, there are a group of Rishonim, as well as a common collection of minhagim, that direct the observance of some part of Tisha Be’Av on Shabbat.
Indeed, it is my view that there is an implicit dispute among the Rishonim as to whether the 9th of Av that falls out on Shabbat is really also Tisha Be’Av but we just do not publically mourn on that day, or the rabbinic decree that delayed the fast until Sunday is really is to be understood as saying Tisha Be’Av is completely delayed – in all its forms and permutations – until Sunday, the 10th of Av and Shabbat is celebrated like any Shabbat (except that Sunday is Tisha BeAv); some in this groups even claim that Shabbat the 9th of Av cannot even have the status of the eve of Tisha Be’av.
On this dispute hinges nearly all of the halachic issues in question, and I would like to point out the range of this dispute.
- In OC 551:4 there is a dispute about the status of the week before 9th Av when the 9th of Av is on Shabbat and delayed until Sunday. Is there a full week before the fast or no days before the fast? Shulchan Aruch recounts both views in the alternative. The central dispute is simple to understand. One view says that the week before the 9th of Av is the week of Tisha Be’Av and the second view says that “Tisha Be’Av” is actually on the 10th of Av in such a year and it is like any year where Tisha Be’Av is on Sunday and there is no “week before Tisha Be’Av” then. (See Mishnah Berurah 551:38, also).
- There is a dispute about whether marital relations are permitted on this Shabbat (OC 554:19) with three views given: always permitted, never permitted, or permitted only in a case of mitzvah.
- There are those who maintain that regular Torah study is forbidden that whole Shabbat, while others say only from mincha onward, and yet others say permitted all day. (Compare Magen Avraham 553:7 with Mishnah Berurah 553:9 with Taz 553:7 with Aruch Hashulchan 553:4.)
- There are those who note that taking a Shabbat afternoon stroll on Shabbat 9th of Av is prohibited as it is not for the sake of Shabbat and inconsistent with the 9th of Av sadness. See Sharai Teshuva 553:5 (and note which poskim he cites).
One can see a hint of the view that when the 9th of Av fall on Shabbat, private sadness is still allowed in the precise formulation of the Rambam (Tanit 5:8) that:
וערב תשעה באב שחל להיות בשבת אוכל ושותה כל צרכו ומעלה על שלחנו אפילו כסעודת שלמה, וכן תשעה באב עצמו שחל להיות בשבת אינו מחסר כלום.
When the eve of Tisha Be’Av falls out on Shabbat one can eat and drink as much as one wants, and put on one’s plate even a feast like Solomon’s. So too, when Tisha Be’Av itself falls out on Shabbat, one should not be lacking anything.
As Rabbi Shternbach notes in Moadim Uzemanim 5:343, the formulation with regard to Shabbat on the eve of Tisha Be’Av denotes that one may not observe the Tisha Be’Av eve rituals at all, but may feast, whereas on Shabbat 9th of Av itself, merely “nothing should be lacking” but there is no mention of Solomon’s feast.
This stands in noticeable contrast with the revised formulation of this Rambam found in the Shulchan Aruch 552:10 which reads:
אם חל תשעה באב באחד בשבת, או שחל בשבת ונדחה לאחר השבת, אוכל בשר ושותה יין בסעודה המפסקת ומעלה על שלחנו אפילו יד כסעודת שלמה בעת מלכותו.
If the 9th of Av falls on Sunday or on Shabbat and Tisha Be’Av is delayed until Sunday, one may eat meat and drink wine at the final meal and place on one’s table like the feast of Solomon when he was king.
The Shulchan Aruch, who adopts the view that when the 9th of Av is on Shabbat, Tisha BeAv is not observed at all (and neither is the eve of Tisha BeAv), changes the formulation of the Rambam to reflect this view. Magen Avraham (552:14) who thinks that one is still mourning on this day, as it is still Tisha BeAv in private, has no choice but to add “nonetheless, one should sit [during this ‘feast of Solomon’] like one who is an abandoned soul, feeling no joy” since he is of the view that one is still really in private mourning. Of course, he is arguing with the Shulchan Aruch, even if he does not state such (as the Mishnah Berurah 552:23 notes) when he quotes alternative views.
Thus, on a halacha lemaseh level, I would like to suggest that at its core this matter is a dispute between two basic views.
- Magen Avraham and many others think that the 9th of Av that falls out on Shabbat is to be treated like a day of mourning in private, like shiva that falls out on Shabbat, and thus many aspects of private mourning are permitted (and only public mourning is prohibited) but the day is still really Tisha Be’Av.
- Rabbi Karo and many others who think that Shabbat totally overwhelms Tisha Be’Av and no aspect of this sad day can be observed on Shabbat. Tisha Be’Av is observed on the 10th of Av, in his view, when the 9th of Av is on Shabbat.
From these two views, both the Mishnah Berurah and Aruch Hashulchan (and maybe even Rama) are uncertain as to what exactly to do practically to resolve this dispute, and thus who try to examine each matter on a case by case basis, frequently citing inconsistent or compromised views or even adopting the view that Shabbat after mincha should be treated with the sadness of Tisha Be’av Eve for some matters. (See Mishnah Berurah 553:23 and Aruch Hashulchan 553:4, as one of a number of examples. Contrast this with the clear rules found in Yalkut Yosef Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 556).
May we be blessed – even at this late date in the month of Av — to see only redemption and joy in our community.
 In this short article, I use the social convention ‘9th of Av’ or ‘10th of Av’ to denote the calendar date, and Tisha Be’Av to note the date the fast is observed.